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The challenge

Abcam are a successful, fast growing Cambridge bio tech company who make, buy, repackage and supply antibodies. These are metered into small vials, labelled and stored at -170°C. These temperatures are extremely aggressive to labels and poorly adhered labels can fall off or cause blockages and unreliability in the automated storage systems used in many labs.

Traditionally each label was applied by hand – taking 15 seconds with variable results, clearly the process needed improvement.

  • Applied Expertise
  • Research & strategy
  • Human factors
  • Industrial design
  • Packaging
  • Technology development
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Electronic engineering
  • Software engineering
  • Wireless & connected
  • Short run manufacturing
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Supply chain management

The solution

Cambridge Design Partnership sourced a new label material that had the adhesive and flexibility needed to solve the reliability problem but it presented a major automation challenge. The label was much too flexible for existing ‘peel and present’ systems to work. We found an innovative solution and created IP that the label material supplier Brady has subsequently licensed.


  • Automated handling & manipulation of challenging materials
  • Electro mechanical design & integration
  • Software integration with IT systems
  • Prototyping
  • Printer technologies

Technical Highlights

  • Process automation
  • Product development
  • Prototype development
  • Verification testing and user trials
  • Environmental testing
  • Crease minimised application

Benefit to client

The automated label application system is capable of printing and labelling one vial every in 2 seconds with a stable and permanent label. The new labels had improved adherence, and the system featured rapid throughput enabling increased efficiency.

Presented good ideas and a good business model, communication is open and honest
Adam Cleverly, Abcam.

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